The Work Must Continue

I had a great time this semester with all the Food Justice folk. In the beginning of the semester I was bummed that I had to choose only three projects to me a part of. All of them seemed so interesting and uplifting. The three I chose were due to the fact that they were the three which I knew would dirty my hands: Food Forest, True Greens, and New Roots. In these, I knew I would be planting, or digging, or hauling, all of which I enjoy.
I was very lucky to have True Greens early on. The winter was cold and wet, and while it postponed work on the food forest, I could spend some of that time in the warm, humid greenhouse filling trays with soil, or planting. Andres and the True Greens team were a fun lot. I enjoyed getting pointers here and there from Tom as I assisted in some of the Garden plantings as well. I think the first couple of harvests of the microgreens were my favorite, because there were no buyers lined up and we had the opportunity to taste these incredible flavors moments after picking them. Then we got to share that with the class and have the taste test. I told Andres at one point how glad I was to have dropped the French 201 class I would have been otherwise taking right after INDS 430 that would have prevented me from going to the greenhouse.
I was lucky to have that outlet. I was in charge of securing the compost for the Food Forest from Chesapeake Compost Works, and that proved to be a long, drawn out, frustrating, six-week affair. Shortly after being tasked with the procurement, I had the delivery date set up for March 6th. That very day, with the laden dump truck already on route, Dominic told informed me that the landscape manager of UMBC did not think the soil sturdy enough to deliver on. I had to call off the delivery. Rescheduling the delivery costs us an extra $100 or 25%.
The next four weeks consisted of Dominic, Vinnie of Chesapeake Compost, the UMBC landscape manager, and I all bouncing texts, phone calls, and emails back and forth trying to figure out when the rain might be letting up enough for us to get the dirt down. Then, just as it seemed we might be able to get the stars aligned enough for us to have it delivered, my phone started acting up, not receiving texts or phone calls until a day or two after they were made: Murphy’s Law. I was forced to pass off the last phase of compost procurement to the already burdened Dominic.
After the compost was delivered, things got moving. In a week’s time we had the cardboard and compost down, and were able to get the entire class to help us plant the about half the plants. This was my favorite part; laboring in the dirt with tangible results at the end. The end of that class period was very satisfying. It had started to look like the space we had envisioned.
We were unable to get the Garden’s funding that was set aside for the space, due to a change in the position of treasurer. That was a bit of a setback. We were hoping to have all of the plants in the ground earlier and I feel as if the task and the space is unfinished. Perhaps we can see it as an opportunity to observe the space before we finish planting in the fall. This may lead us to rethinking our plant list.
To those students coming after us to this project, I would tell them to stick with it and not get discouraged. I found myself despairing at bureaucratic roadblocks a few times this semester, both for our project and for those of other groups. Seeing the reaction of others to it, their determination in the face of it was hope inspiring. I said in class that I believed bureaucracy the bane of goodwill, but now I see patience and determination as the antidote to it.
Since the beginning of the semester my concept of “Food Justice” has remained the same in most respects, but has become more nuanced with more light being shed on all the facets of the system. The food system is woven into social, economic, cultural and basically every other aspect of our society. It’s broken nature reflecting, or casting a shadow on those systems broken in so many other ways. It also occurs to me that food is like the soil, or that it is the soil from which change must grow.
The work must continue.
-Kevin Hoage

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